Esmail Abdi of the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association
Amnesty makes jailed Iranian teacher union leader a prisoner of conscience
I blogged about the arrest of Iranian teacher union leader Ismail Abdi a month ago, and the bad news is that he’s still in jail (although no longer in solitary confinement for interrogation). But in the past month, over 12,000 of you have taken the LabourStart action calling on the Iranian regime to set him free, and now our friends at Amnesty International have given him the status of a “prisoner of conscience”, ratcheting up their pressure on the Iranian government. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has today written to the consulate in London to press for his immediate release, and you can follow the steps on the Amnesty briefing to do the same (and if you haven’t taken the LabourStart action, do that too!)
According to Amnesty, Ismail says the interrogators accused him of “organizing and participating in illegal gatherings”, which is not an offence under Iranian law. The “gatherings” were a number of peaceful demonstrations held in recent months by teachers and members of the ITTA, a legally constituted entity in Iran, in protest at poor wages, low education budget and imprisonment of teacher trade unionists. If the legal process that has begun against Ismail Abdi leads to a conviction, he risks facing over a decade in jail because a suspended 10-year sentence he received following a 2010 arrest and subsequent conviction related to his trade union activities would also be implemented.
Frances’ letter draws attention to the Iranian government’s obligations, writing:
“This action is a disgraceful breach of Iran’s professed adherence to the International Labour Organisation’s core conventions on freedom of association, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes the right of everyone to form and join trade unions of their choice for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests.”
Please take action today to help get Ismail out of jail, but remember that he is just one of many trade unionists – some of them teachers, like him – in Iran’s prisons, just for doing what you do every day. An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us.